Free Societies & Coercive States
Posted by Orrin Woodward on August 28, 2013
The excerpt is from an upcoming book I am slowly writing on the Five Laws of Decline (FLD) and the Six Duties of Society (SDS). Throughout history, fulfilling the SDS has created growth, wealth, and prosperity in society; however, it also initiated the FLD as people calculated that exploitation of others production was easier than producing themselves. In fact, what I will display through numerous case-studies is the predictable systematic process of the SDS rise and the FLD decline.
LIFE Leadership teaches many systematic methods to build long-term sustainable cultures and understanding the SDS and FLD will help any leader building culture.
The word society derives from the Latin word socius meaning a companion. The companionship is voluntary and is entered into for mutual benefits. Because man has innate social instincts, he associates with other human beings to satisfy this need. Nevertheless, these free groupings are not as interested in increased freedom, per se, as in increased liberty. Educator Felix Morley elaborates:
Regardless of the social institution we stop to consider – whether it be the family as the oldest know cooperative unit, or an association of atomic scientists as a modern manifestation – we see similar evidences of self-imposed restraint. Husband and wife put definite limits on their individual freedom, in order to promote certain objectives, such as rearing of children, which they have in common. And the atomic scientists in congress assembled are making comparable individual sacrifices for their particular common end. So it seems to be the nature of human association, whether voluntary or involuntary, to limit the condition of freedom for those whose association is something more merely than casual.
Mr. Morley’s distinction between freedom and liberty is essential for understanding non-coercive volunteer societies. Individuals in a free community setting, voluntarily limit their personal freedoms for an enlargement of its members liberties. For instance, if drivers refused to limit their “freedom” to drive on any side of the road they want, society’s driving liberties would be greatly impaired. For few would risk driving on roads when no established “rules of the road” are in place. Paradoxically, although freedom for the individual driver is greatly increased (he can drive as he chooses), the liberty of all drivers within the society is greatly decreased. Safe driving requires individuals to voluntarily submit to the “rules of the road” so that liberty of driving is enjoyed by all. In this example, because the drivers refused to temper their individual freedoms, society lost its driving liberties. The only alternative would be to hire thousands of extra police officers to patrol the roads and restrain recalcitrants by force. What society refused to do by self-restraint is now enforced by increased State coercion.
The above principles are true in all voluntary associations. The group loses liberty when its individuals refuse to freely restrain their personal freedoms. In fact, voluntary restraint on personal freedoms for increased enjoyment of societal liberties is essential for free civilizations. Liberty requires minimum State involvement and self-sacrifice of personal freedoms for the common good of society by its members. The following explanation, again by Morley, is so poignant on this point that the author feels compelled to share it in full: “That which is limited by continuous association is the indulgence of individual appetites, passions, and animal instincts – the carnal side of man. That which is expanded by continuous association is the perfection of individual skills, ambitions, and aspirations – the spiritual side of man. Thus, continuous voluntary association may and does limit the physical condition of freedom. But it does so to enlarge the moral endowment of liberty.” Throughout history, mankind has enjoyed the benefits of association enough to limit his freedom and increase the liberty within society.
As liberty within society expands, options increases as to activities and occupations to pursue for its members. The division of functions leads to additional specialization in each field. This increases the skills and technological know-how within each branch of society and the division of labor rapidly increases the production and choices available in society. In a free society, because of the natural diversity and variety within mankind, people are provided increased options to choose the field that best suits their individual gifts and passions. Economist Murray Rothbard explains, “For, as an economy grows the range of choice open to the producer and to the consumer proceeds to multiply greatly. Furthermore, only a society with a standard of living considerably higher than subsistence can afford to devote much of its resources to improving knowledge and to developing a myriad of goods and services able the level of brute subsistence.” Indeed, it’s the liberty enjoyed within a free society that allows mankind to plan, do, check, and adjust his choices to set and satisfy his personal goals and dreams while benefitting society in the process. Liberty, in sum, leads to specialization, division of labor, increased wealth, and increased options for society’s members. However, the increase wealth also leads to increased temptation for some to plunder a neighbor’s wealth rather than produce his own.